I attended a midnight retail release for the first Borderlands game in 2009, back when midnight game launches and physical disc copies were both still things people were interested in. I didn’t go anywhere special, just to my local GameStop where I was a somewhat-regular customer. Not a regular in the “hang out and talk annoyingly to everyone who comes in” sort of way, but a regular of the “actually buying and trading games” variety.
That particular night something cool happened: I met one of the developers on the game. I don’t remember his name, but I think he was part of the design team. He was on vacation from Gearbox to celebrate the launch of the game, and he decided to come back home here to Oregon and visit his family. Before leaving the office, he decided to grab a box of swag to give away at a random midnight event near his hometown, as a surprise — and I just happened to be at the event he showed up at.
While everyone else happily gobbled up t-shirts and posters that night, I was the lone person eager to walk home with a Borderlands mouse pad. So clearly, this article is bought and paid for directly by the development team and you shouldn’t trust me or my opinions. I’m just kidding. I’ve never talked with Gearbox and affiliate links are gross.
No one could have prepared me for just how amazing Borderlands turned out. It became a franchise and a phenomenon overnight, seemingly by accident. It spent most of its development life looking like a sci-fi spin-off of Gearbox’s Brothers in Arms series, with a realistic art style and a strange obsessive focus on gun artwork.
I’m one of the few people who thought that original art style looked kind of neat. I was already in on the game before it had its stylistic rebirth. I had enjoyed Gearbox’s other games up till that point, and was curious to see what they’d do with a Diablo-style game. In 2009, “looter shooter” wasn’t a genre yet, but it felt like a very logical step in the progression of game design. Hellgate: London had flirted with the idea a…